“Ultraman Z’s first episode was as satisfying and fulfilling as one’s favorite meal!”
Such glowing praise as this quote from Discord has been mirrored all over the internet since the evening of Friday, June 19th, 2020, when western audiences were introduced to the ongoing adventures of the newest Ultra Hero, Ultraman Z (Zett).
I was one of those people.
Call me EJ. I wear a few hats here at UltramanGalaxy.com, but first and foremost, I am a fan of all things Ultraman. As Z has begun, I’ve visited the various corners of the internet, talking with fans and getting the lay of the land with our opinions and questions. The response from all of you has been absolutely stunning: over 1,000,000 fans watchedthe YouTube catchup of the premiere within its first two days online. I’ve had a wonderful time hearing everything series veterans and newcomers have had to say, and it’s been an even better time interacting with you all as we take this step into our favorite story world’s future.
Here are some of the key qualities of the first episode that truly resonated with all us fans from every corner of the world:
The Special Effects
The tokusatsu genre refers to the special effects that have characterized entries for decades, and Z’s first episode is already being hailed as a gold standard. Many fans immediately recognized director Kiyotaka Taguchi’s work throughout the episode, commenting on the fantastic use of scale between monsters, buildings, and characters ( one of his directorial trademarks). Also praised were Tsuburaya Productions’ use of their trademark miniatures, which are being hailed as some of the best in the show’s history.
“When I saw that shot of Genegarg pushing Zett through the building,” one Discord user remarked, “my jaw dropped.”
Equally hailed is the initial scene of the episode, with the 18-meter class Gomess rampaging through the city, only to be met by the 50-meter class Sevenger. Fans were genuinely floored by the framing, scale, and compositing.
Zett and Haruki
Any show lives and dies on the strength of its main characters, and both Ultraman Zett and Haruki have managed to win audiences over within minutes with their sincere and heroic attitudes—as well as a bit of endearing humor.
“Haruki and [Zett] have an excellent dynamic, and it feels quite organic… I’m ultra-excited for what’s to come!” said a Reddit user, with multiple others echoing similar opinions.
Most often parroted was the initial meeting between Zett and Haruki piloting Sevenger in the battle against Genegarg, and how quickly they chose to work together. It’s genuinely refreshing for two characters to not be bogged down by unrealistic conflict. While such misunderstandings are not particularly common in the Ultraman Series, for new fans, it was truly surprising. The two further distinguished themselves with hilarious banter, cementing them as one of the most likable pairs of host and Ultra of the New Generation Heroes era.
The first shot of Ultraman Z was a blast from the past for viewers—literally—as we were reintroduced to the Ancient Monster Gomess, the very first monster to appear in the Ultraman Series, and in a size that is similar to its original—18 meters (the original was 10 meters). The appearance of such a famous creature proved to be a harbinger of things to come, as a cavalcade of monsters greeted fans in the opening title sequence. Audiences caught sight of other classic foes such as Ragon, Zaragas, Sadolar, Antlar, and more.
Hopes were kindled immediately across social media for the reappearance of these monsters in stories similar to their original tales. Of all the Classic Ultraman monsters seen, however, none got as strong a reaction as the return of Bullton, the weird, reality-bending creature who first appeared in the original Ultraman, and who had not appeared in any form since 2007’s Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle. Even Bullton’s effects were highly reminiscent of its original appearance! (We will be covering all the ties between Ultraman Z and the Classic Ultraman era in upcoming posts!)
Ultraman Z is undoubtedly the story of Haruki and Zett, but ever since the first trailer, fans have rallied around a “third” protagonist: Sevenger, the sleepy-eyed robot that first appeared in Ultraman Leo. Making his triumphant return after over 45 years, Sevenger immediately won the hearts of audiences everywhere.
A perfect modernization of the classic Monster Ball robot, Sevenger’s modern appearance makes tons of references to his original design. Even his power source is derived from the original incarnation, with its new three-minute time limit split into increments of one minute. With new techniques like a rocket punch, and a main cast role, many fans have looked at the scrappy robot as something of a mascot—a not-inaccurate title, since the STORAGE emblem is derived from Sevenger’s lovable face.
The first episode was a tour de force for many fans, and has been compared favorably to many of the best stories in the Ultraman Series, as well as the genre overall. However, what will keep many fans coming back—by their own admission—are the many mysteries and compelling plot threads. There were several key questions circulated by fans across social media in the hours and days after the end of the episode. Here are just a few:
Where did Genegarg come from?
To where has Ultraman Zero been sent?
Who was the person who stole the Tiga, Dyna, and Gaia Medals?
What was Celebro doing inside Genegarg—and what will it do on Earth now that it’s inside Shinya Kaburagi?
Fans have lit up message boards, Discord chats, Twitter, and Facebook with their theories and discussions from the first episode alone, and the compelling mysteries have ensured that they will keep watching every week in hopes of getting their answers.
New episodes of Ultraman Z will continue to be posted weekly on Friday nights at 8:30pm on the ウルトラマン公式 ULTRAMAN OFFICIAL by TSUBURAYA PROD. YouTube Channel. Viewers can expect dozens of exciting adventures in the future from Zett, Haruki, and STORAGE. I, personally, can’t wait to experience what comes next with all of you. And for the inside scoop on all things Ultraman, be sure to check back with Ultraman Galaxy!
The next month is going to be an exciting one for Ultraman fans. The first episodes of the latest series, Ultraman Z, are about to broadcast. Tsuburaya is releasing new content for fans in preparation for the 55th anniversary of the first appearance of our favorite hero from the Land of Light. More and more content, including Smashy City’s Ultraman update and quality products such as the latest set of collector pins from FanSets, is coming every day.
The most exciting news for fans is Marvel’s upcoming TheRise of Ultraman. Announced last year and in production since that time, audiences got a tantalizing glimpse with the release of the Alex Ross cover for Issue #1 in the June 16th Diamond Distribution solicitation.
This is not the first time that Ultraman has appeared in the form of sequential art. Several manga—from Ultraman: The First to Ultraman Story 0—have explored the origin of the series, either updating or translating it for fans and non-fans alike. The latest manga, entitled simply ULTRAMAN, was so popular that it led to the Netflix television series, Anime ULTRAMAN. Such is the hero’s popularity that we’ve seen him—and the entire tokusatsu genre—lovingly parodied in such comic book content as Kaijumax. Ultraman’s grasp on the world is strong indeed!
It is the amazing depth of this property, now well into its sixth decade, that allows for such examination, especially in the form of comic books. Unlike so many other media, those working in graphic novels, manga, and comics are only creatively bound by their imagination. Stories can take place anywhere and even any when.
Numerous adaptations of popular franchises have failed to attract their fanbases or those of the medium, of course. They simply weren’t built for comic books, which require:
Abstraction – By their nature, comic books reflect our real world in the form of art. Some embrace realism while others prefer caricature, but both use a mixed language of art and verbiage to mimic the real world. The content that works the best is that which allows for these two forms to work together, paradoxically revealing “truth” by exaggerating it.
Breadth – Comic books work best when they can show the entire spectrum of the human experience. While superheroes and horror get much of the press, just as much wonder can be by brought by showing the subtleties of romance, heartbreak, and familial drama with single strokes of a pen (digital or analogue). Successful titles embrace themes that tie readers together beneath the artwork that intrigues them to keep reading.
Complicity – Yes, readers are captive to the intentions of the storytellers’ work on the page, but this is unlike television or film. Audiences must “move” the characters in their minds between the gutters of the panels. The best creators know how to pull an audience into the story beyond the constraints of the art. Their imaginations are fueled just as much as by what is not shown as what is.
Ultraman has all of these things and more. It is a galaxy-spanning mix of space adventure and superhero action, leavened with optimistic questions about humanity’s role on this planet and beyond. The fantastic depictions of Kaiju via tokusatsu conventions have been compared to kabuki or opera, crafting a language that allows audiences to see beyond the limitations of their television. Finally, there is the complicity of the audience: tying together characters, stories, series, and entire dimensions into a broader universe that was created to feel as wide as the Milky Way but as concrete as any other story world.
Remember that this is a story that, as has been stated elsewhere, is no mere adaptation. Like Marvel’s titles in the Star Wars and Halo universes, the Ultraman that will be appearing on store shelves in September is a canonical figure in its franchise story world. He may one day fight next to other heroes of the Inter Galactic Defense Force, either in the pages of a comic book or broadcast on televisions around the world. The creatives behind this content aren’t fighting to fit Ultraman into the borders of a panel or a 16:9 screen; they are allowing the story to embrace whatever platform upon which they appear.
This is great for fans and non-fans alike. How many readers have considered picking up a title only to reject it due to the massive amount of story that might be “required” to understand it? How many fans have dropped a book because there has been yet another “reboot” that abandons plot threads to which they wanted a satisfying conclusion?
A new entry point into the Ultraman story universe gives something for both. Those who are unfamiliar with the Hero of Light can pick up this comic book reinvention with the confidence that its abstraction and breadth will inspire their imaginations in such a way that doors will open to allow them to visit untold hours of storytelling across the Ultraman universe. Those who are familiar, meanwhile, will be able to dive right in and dream about how these elements will tie into the broader franchise.
This is the kind of work that Starlight Runner Entertainment has been pushing for since its foundation in 2000. Successful transmedia and multimedia story worlds must embrace a medium’s strengths and flaws; comic books cannot and should not ape the experience of a television series. Such works must also impact the broader story world. Fans want stories that matter to characters they care about, whether these stories are big or small.
Marvel’s TheRise of Ultraman has the ingredients of a great comic book and those of a powerful extension of a global franchise. I, personally, cannot wait to see what its creative team has in store for the series and for the form.
As I take over the role as editor-in-chief for this website, I want to do several things…
First and foremost, I want thank all of you who are here reading the content on Ultraman Galaxy. You’re the reason I’m here, and it’s your passion for all things Ultraman that makes such a site possible.
Secondly, I want to ask that if you are interested in certain content, products, characters, stories, or mysteries, that you email us here at UG. Although this site is designed to provide official news from Tsuburaya Productions and the Ultraman universe, we also want the fans to help guide this content, and while certain mysteries cannot be revealed, we will do our best to give you whatever we can.
That’s because, lastly, I want to make a confession that ties into both of those: I came into Ultraman as a neophyte, and am still learning on the job.
Oh, sure, I’d heard of Ultraman. It’s hard to be completely ignorant of a global icon. There was always light chatter about the character and the franchise in the Before Times of Prodigy Forums that I frequented to discuss all manner of geeky topics (in those antediluvian days, it was Magic: The Gathering and Image Comics… so some things never change). I’d played the Super Nintendo game, even. But that was about it.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that much of the content that I liked had been borne out of Ultraman. Voltron (or rather, the remashed Beast King GoLion) took much inspiration from The Ultraman. The X-Files, among much else, was a modern day American retelling of Ultra Q. Meanwhile, every gigantic monster in Power Rangers (and knock-off thereof) owes a massive debt of gratitude for the innovations by Eiji Tsuburaya and his team during the early years of the franchise.
Things went deeper than that, however. The world of Ultraman has always been one grounded in hope, compassion, and bravery. Wrapping them together was superheroism, mystery, and galaxy-spanning adventure, traits that are now global fuel for media thanks to the Avengers and Doctor Who. It was Tsuburaya’s genius to infuse these elements so deeply into the mythos of Ultraman that the series could replicate itself innumerable times and never lose sight of what it was. This mirrored the works by other media creators at this period in time, from Gene Roddenberry to Ursula K. Le Guin, who saw the cynicism around them and decided to dream of something more.
These are the kinds of aspirational worlds that inspired me as a child and continue to inspire me today. While I binge Ozark and Tiger King like the rest of us in these times of self-isolation, I find myself drawn back to shows like Psych, Futurama, and—most recently—The Mandalorian. The characters in these shows are flawed, sure, but they live in worlds that I want to inhabit. They tell stories that are interesting, engaging, dark, and ripe for discovery.
That was what struck me when Tsuburaya Productions and The Licensing Group first engaged Starlight Runner Entertainment with helping them to extend the Ultraman story world: the underpinnings that spoke to me as a creator and a fan. I must admit that, at first, I was overwhelmed. This was a fifty-plus year-old franchise, with countless permutations and interpretations, not to mention every series, film, side story (gaiden), remix, and much-else. What immediately came to the forefront in each instance was the concerted effort by everybody on the team to continue to create a world that felt cohesive, real, and boundless.
Part of our credo is that we like to create entire worlds to explore. We want fans to get what they want out of their favorite stories, so we try to build universes deep enough that the narrative explorers among us can get lost. Ultraman is that kind of story world; just look to the new section on the website, titled The Q Files, that details all the mysteries and boundless wonders that Ultraman has to offer. The way that this kind of content inspires shows in the passions of its lifelong fans. It shows in how the franchise continues to win over new fans, like me, to this day.
And that’s why I wanted to thank you and ask you to tell us what you want. It’s your love of all things Ultraman that keeps these stories going, so it should be you who is guiding this ship. I’m merely the man at the tiller, excited to discover all of this along with you as we travel into known and unknown waters.
In this time, we wake up and look out at a strange world: quiet, uncertain, like nothing we’ve ever seen. We are reminded of the science fiction stories we’ve seen in TV, movies, and games, the ones where something happens that is so huge that it affects everyone on planet Earth. Who could have dreamed that we would face such a time?
While some may think it’s trivial to see this crisis through the lens of Ultraman, I might submit this one tiny argument: stories comfort us, they help us cope, and they sometimes show us how we can rise to become our own very best. To me, Ultraman—the complete saga from Ultra Q through Ultraman Taiga—is a great epic story.
Eiji Tsuburaya created the Ultraman television series to show his audience that science and human ingenuity are rays of light against the darkness of the Kaiju and the deceit of conquering aliens. Ultraman himself was and always has been a paragon of humanity: courageous, hopeful, kind, a being who will never surrender even in the face of overwhelming challenge.
But there is one aspect of the Ultraman story that I think is most important of all when thinking about what we’re going through now. It is the concept of bonds.
In Japan, many view the capability to bond emotionally with others as a vital power that is within each person. It is the thing that keeps us going, the energy that puts the spark in our eyes. Our bonds with others is the life force that flows into our days, moving people to live and love, to heal and accomplish. The fire that is the strength of our bonds embodies our will to survive, and in doing so, it is the energy that connects us, allowing for us to reconcile our differences and make the world a better place.
In the deep mythology of Ultraman, the Plasma Spark, which transformed the people of M78 into Ultras, was created only after their entire homeworld was threatened by the failure of their sun. Together they bonded and created an artificial star, and that star in turn bonded the Ultras forever in light.
One of the more unique aspects of the various Ultraman series is that every so often, when an Ultra hero faces an overwhelming challenge, when they are knocked down for the count, perhaps even seemingly killed in action, something strange happens. Ultra Heroes can be strengthened, revived, even brought back to life by the energy of others.
Sometimes, a fellow Ultra arrives and transfers his energy into our hero to enable him to rise again. Even more fascinating, sometimes it is the belief, love, and support of the people that does this. It can be the Ultra host’s friends and teammates. It can even be ordinary people from the towns and cities around the fallen Giant of Light, beaming their hopes, passions, and willpower into him until he stands once again. Think of Ultraman as if he were a rock star, being spurred to hit the perfect note by a wildly cheering crowd. Infusion accomplished!
In short, in the universe of Ultraman, it could be said that emotional bonds can be transformed into physical energy or power.
Ultraman, his Ultra Brothers, and all of the Ultras of three generations have taught us a wonderful lesson. We can grow beyond our limitations, surmount overwhelming challenges. We can become Ultra ourselves, worthy of standing at the side of the most noble and heroic beings in the universe. But we cannot do this without sharing our bonds.
Right now, we must do our best to generate and project energy, love, generosity and assistance to one another, to family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers. We must set aside differences. Remove negativity. Courage is not the absence of fear, it is acting with care in spite of fear. It is time to live the message of one of our favorite stories. Rising together, all of us—we are the world’s heroes now.
I was a little kid in the early 1970s and the only thing I loved more than Japanese anime were Japanese live-action monster movies. Back then, you could only see them in movie theaters, and for me that might be once or twice a year!
But then one day while I was visiting my family in Puerto Rico I was flipping through the channels and saw something that blew my mind: a huge monster was attacking Tokyo—one I’d never seen before—and out of the sky came this giant silver dude, shouting, “Shuwatch!” He wrestled that beast to the ground, and then he crossed his arms and this wild beam of light was fired across the sky, blowing the beast to kingdom come!
The monster was called Bemular. The hero? ULTRAMAN.
To me this was the greatest thing in the history of ever. Every summer, I would be eager to return to Puerto Rico to catch up on the adventures of my favorite superhero. Ultraseven, the first series to follow Ultraman, became my all-time favorite, because I loved the show’s darkness and Seven’s cool design.
Sadly, the many Ultra Series that followed Ultraseven would not make it to American shores. As I got older, I could only hunt for Japanese videotapes and DVDs at comic book conventions.
The Ultraman universe was deeply influential for me. The idea of a continuing series, one that was set in a vast multiverse of heroes, aliens, and monsters—but treated its young audience seriously. The fact that science was seen as cool and positive. The mature themes of exploration and problem-solving. The fact that Ultraman and his fellow Ultras were fundamentally good beings, paragons of courage, hope, and kindness. All of this would inform my work as a comic book writer, videogame creator, film and television producer, and teacher.
Now, in a beautiful twist of fate, I get to work with Tsuburaya Productions, producers of Ultraman, and Danny Simon and Carey Simon of The Licensing Group—helping to reintroduce this incredible universe to the world.
Join me and my team here on the Ultraman Galaxy website. We will be updating it just about every week with exciting new information about the Ultraman franchise as it gains momentum with new licenses and content across an array of media platforms.
And don’t ever let anyone tell you that your wildest dreams can’t come true!