“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 watched the 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!