The year was 1998. I was 4 years old, and was meeting a family friend who worked in Japan as he passed through the area. He was a gregarious man, if one with a taste for too much aftershave. I remember the smile he gave me as he pulled out the small, wrapped gift, kept safe in his bag.
“I heard you’re a fan of Superman, EJ,” he said. Of course, he was right, Superman: The Animated Series had been on TV for two years at that point, and even at my young age, I was utterly enamored with the character. “Well, this is a hero from Japan, who I grew up with. I think you’ll like him a lot, too.” I tore open the wrapping to find a VHS tape. I was confused, but still excited, and thanked him before running to the TV. My parents, of course, didn’t approve; we had a guest, after all! But the man laughed it off. He’d gotten me the tape as a gift, so what was wrong with me using it?
My parents acquiesced and played the tape, and it started unexpectedly—with a choir of children excitedly shouting a name.
I was transfixed. From the first notes of the bombastic theme song, to the psychedelic visuals—I was fascinated by the silver man flying and jumping around, by the massive ziggurat rising from the sea, and futuristic spaceships, none of which I realized were props. I was glued to the screen. The first episode on the tape was a strange choice, honestly: Episode 5, “The Day the Monster Came Out,” featuring the undead Sealizar.
The creature was disgusting, repulsive, a walking monster corpse, closer to a beached whale than Godzilla. And yet, I didn’t turn away. I wanted to see how the monster would be stopped. I couldn’t understand what was being said, as I didn’t speak a single word of Japanese. I didn’t need to. The threat was clear, and as GUTS (I could at least figure out the team name, thanks to their excellent uniform branding) tried and failed to stop the creature’s lumbering path towards some kind of power plant, the stakes only continued to rise.
And then, he arrived.
The young man, one of the pilots, raised a golden wand, and in a swirl of light became the hero from the opening titles, Ultraman Tiga! As he prevented his teammate’s plane from being dragged down by the monster, I realized— Ultraman was HUGE. He was the same size as the monster! He was as big as the Megazord was! But he could MOVE. Ultraman was agile, and he was a brawler, getting in and assaulting the horrid creature with kicks and chops. However, the fight wasn’t easy, and after a while, the blue light on Ultraman’s chest started to flash red. I was confused. Was something wrong? Our family friend sat down next to me and pointed at the screen.
“Ultraman can only fight for three minutes,” he said, “And the red flashing light means that he only has one minute left. If that light goes dark, Ultraman will never rise again.” Now I was really invested. I didn’t want Ultraman to be defeated! I cheered for Ultraman, praying for him to win against the disgusting scourge. A moment later, my prayers were answered—Ultraman gathered power, glowing with bright light, before firing an energy beam from his forearm! Initially, it was just absorbed into the monster’s chest.
A second passed.
And then, the monster stopped, making vile gurgling noises, before EXPLODING into tiny pieces! I jumped into the air—he’d done it! Ultraman looked up to the sky and flew off into the setting sun.
I was hooked. There were four episodes on that cassette and I watched them all again and again, until the tape eventually wore out a year or so later. I of course didn’t forget the show I was so addicted to, but we didn’t have the internet for me to find out more about it, so I had to let it go…
Fast forward four years. I was watching channel 5 early in the morning one Saturday before my parents were awake. I turn on the TV, and was greeted with a sight that stunned me.
Ultraman Tiga was on the screen, running and jumping to a rocking English language theme song. I screamed in surprise, and a few moments later my mother came running in, terrified I had hurt myself. I simply pointed at the screen. “It’s Ultraman!”
Even more surprisingly, it turned out to be the very same episode I had started with, featuring Sealizar. However, something was…different. There were scenes missing, and though I had never understood what was being said, the personalities of the characters felt different, somehow. It was still Ultraman, but it wasn’t quite the story I had watched so many times as a child. I wanted proper Ultraman. By this time, I had access to the internet, and began to study and learn, discovering new shows like Ultraman Dyna and Ultraman Gaia, and classic series like Ultra Q, Ultraseven, and of course, Ultraman. And I never stopped.
That’s what brings me here today. My name is EJ, and it’s an honor to be taking over editor-in-chief duties for Ultraman Galaxy from my boss, Steele Filipek. I couldn’t be more excited to get a chance to start sharing the knowledge that I grew up learning and enjoying with all of you, and hopefully helping to kickstart a whole new generation of fans with coverage of great stories like Ultraman Z and Ultra Galaxy Fight: The Absolute Conspiracy. These are Ultraman stories presented in just the way I wished for as a child, available to everyone in the here and now. Let’s explore the Land of Light together, and see what we find.